In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court has blocked OSHA and the Biden administration’s planned vaccine mandate, which would have required businesses with at least 100 employees to have their employees get vaccinated or take a weekly COVID-19 test and wear a mask on the job. NRF, which joined more than 26 other trade associations to present oral arguments before the court, applauded the decision.
“While NRF has maintained a strong and consistent position related to the importance of vaccines in helping to overcome this pandemic, the Supreme Court’s decision to stay OSHA’s onerous and unprecedented [emergency temporary standard] is a significant victory for employers,” said David French, SVP of Government Relations at NRF in a statement. “As NRF and other plaintiffs articulated in our briefs before the court, OSHA clearly exceeded its authority promulgating its original mandate under emergency powers without giving stakeholders the benefit of a rulemaking process.”
Additionally, NRF urged the Biden administration to “work with employers, employees and public health experts on practical ways to increase vaccination rates and mitigate the spread of the virus in 2022.”
The Supreme Court found that the Biden Administration had overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the OSHA mandate on such a large segment of the population. The mandate would have impacted 84.2 million workers, which OSHA estimated would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.
“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate,” the majority wrote in an unsigned opinion. “Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.”
The minority argued that the court itself overreached in its decision. “In our view, the Court’s order seriously misapplies the applicable legal standards,” the minority wrote in the dissent. “And in so doing, it stymies the federal government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID–19 poses to our nation’s workers. Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the court displaces the judgments of the government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies.”
While the larger mandate was blocked, a version that only impacts healthcare workers was upheld in a 5-4 vote. This mandate affects nearly all healthcare workers in the country — 10.4 million workers at 76,000 health care facilities — with some medical and religious exemptions.
A separate vaccine mandate for federal contractors is on hold after being blocked by a lower court and has not yet been considered by the Supreme Court.